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By Hiranmayee Mishra


\ud \ud This thesis aims to investigate the impacts of the 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution on the lives of rural women in Orissa, India. The Amendment, which mandated ‘not less than one third’ women at all three levels of the Indian Panchayati Raj institutions, is considered to be an historical intervention of the State. Concerns and apprehensions were raised, questioning its practicability, such as the fear that quotas on such a large scale could never be filled or there would never be large enough numbers of women candidates, and if they came at all, they would be prevented from exercising any real power. However, far beyond expectations, millions of uneducated and poor rural Indian women have responded with great enthusiasm. I have undertaken an empirical study in eight Gram Panchayats (the institutions that work at the village level), in Cuttack Sadar Block in Orissa. My field study took place in two periods between July 2008 and February 2009 (with a gap of one month in between). I followed a feminist methodology with multiple methods, consisting of: participant observation, focus groups and in-depth interviews, with 38 participants. I attempt to focus on the different levels of barriers which my respondents face in their new roles and how they are negotiating with their families to overcome these obstacles. Drawing on my investigations, I suggest that my participants have gained confidence and expertise in the performance of their public roles and that quotas have provided them with an opportunity for this. They have negotiated within their private circles to overcome the age-old barriers of a patriarchal society and their negotiations have, so far, been hopeful. They have taken the male members of their families and communities into their confidence, which has helped them to overcome these constraints. Based on my participants’ words, I argue that empowerment is context-specific and gender quotas have proved to be helpful for my participants in creating an enabling environment, which in turn helped most of these women to become more effective in a public sphere.\u

Publisher: Centre for Women's Studies (York)
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

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